Monthly Archives: March 2016

In Pursuit Of Humanity At Auctions In Western Canada

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12604698_1661362140781773_4399257378087269268_oWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Research Assisted by: Debby

Thousands of horses have been filtered through British Columbia and Alberta auctions in the last few months, often with up to 80% being purchased by kill buyers at some auctions. I’ve chosen to focus on resources for rescuers attending auctions in these two provinces due to the magnitude of criticism and complaints, and because the sheer volume of horses being sent to auctions in BC and Alberta is surely on a par with the biggest horse auctions in the US, such as Billings.

Many horses are registered, sound, very rideable, beautiful, kind, and healthy, while others are unhandled, thin or emaciated, unwell, pregnant, or are injured. Those with injuries will endure unspeakable torture once jammed in a trailer with unfamiliar horses on their final trailer ride. The corruption at these auctions has created an intense divide between the horse rescuers who have been organizing to save these horses – abuse and neglect are untended or unreported, poor quality hay is the rule rather than the exception, and bidders are routinely ignored in favour of kill buyers. Because of negative publicity, photography has been forbidden at most auctions. Many rescuers want to object to the treatment of horses and bidders at the auctions, while others are adamant that the general public will be banned from attendance if they upset the proverbial apple cart.  We’re used to taking photographic evidence freely in public spaces but sale barns are private property.  They do however, have their own “codes of conduct, ethics, and constitution” that they are supposed to adhere to, in theory at least.  Service Alberta also produces a tip sheet on auctions that clearly states that The business is responsible for the actions of its employees and agents.”

I really believe that we need to be careful what we allow, as it is what will continue.  In many ways we teach others how to treat us (and the horses).  While auctions aren’t responsible for the condition in which horses arrive, they and the appropriate SPCA or veterinarian should be prepared to act in the event horses meet the requirements for being “unfit for transportation.”

Transport Decision trees by the National Codes of Practice for Equines.

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Even if we are willing to overlook how the auctions treat us individually as patrons, we should not overlook the care of animals in their custody. My own opinion is that I would report neglect and abuse of an animal not only for that animal and future animals, but because it sometimes involves domestic violence on another level.  Many animal abusers have records for other crimes.

Auction houses are *supposed* to conduct auctions transparently and in particular they should announce how the sale of an animal or tack is completed – it could be the bang lead_largeof a hammer or the word “sold.”  Until the sale is completed you can retract a bid, however, once the sale is completed you are responsible for paying.  While employees of the business are allowed to bid on items, they are not allowed by bid on items they do not intend to buy.  Auctions should make an announcement at the beginning of a sale if an employee will be bidding. And finally, if you purchase a horse and need to keep him temporarily on site until shipping is arranged, do make sure that any administration charges, pricing arrangements, and commissions are in writing.

There is ample recourse for patrons of livestock markets to remonstrate against abuse or refusal of bids within the national and local auction networks in Canada and Alberta/British Columbia (and other provinces) and separate processes by which complaints about animal mistreatment can be made.

The Livestock Markets Association of Canada

The Livestock Markets Association of Canada is a non-profit association of livestock marketing businesses.  Members of the Livestock Markets Association of Canada: (Alberta) Includes Westlock, Dawson Creek, and Innisfail auction houses among others. Vold Jones Vold (VJV) operates Dawson Creek, Beaverlodge, Ponoka, Rimbey, and Westlock. The British Columbia members include Valley Auction among others.  Please see the website for information on other provinces.

The LMAC tells us that their members support the following code:

Code of Ethics and Mission Statement

“As a member of the Livestock Markets Association of Canada, this marketing business pledges to uphold the following marketing standards and principles. We pledge to:

  1. To promote the Auction Method of livestock marketing as an integral part of the Livestock Marketing business.
  2. To promote the auction method as open competitive price discovery. (To me this suggests that they, in least at theory, would not close off their auctions to the public)
  3. To promote fair and open competition while providing factual, accurate and honest market reporting, with actual volume and prices.  To strive to accurately describe and represent all animals consigned.
  4. To provide proper training to employees to ensure humane handling and the proper care of all livestock consigned. To develop safe handling practices that ensure both animals and market staff are treated under the best possible safety standards, ensuring a safe working environment for all employees, buyers, and/or consignors.
  5. To work in co-operation with all government bodies, at all levels to advocate the enactment of appropriate laws, whether statute, regulation, or policy, affecting the marketing of livestock. To ensure that regulations that apply to the marketing sector are market neutral. To protect the marketing industry from over regulation that would negatively affect the speed of commerce and needlessly harm the industry.
  6. To provide and maintain the highest standards of honesty and integrity in all transactions while treating all contributors and buyers in a fair and equal manner.
  7. To maintain a sound financial basis by assuring that full payment is made to sellers and received from buyers, in accordance with the provincial payment regulations.
  8. To protect the producers’ right and freedom to choose what method, manner, means and location they use to market their livestock.”

Is there recourse here for auction attendees who have not been treated fairly?  Possibly.  Without testing this creed we simply don’t know how responsive to complaints they are or how seriously they will consider them.

Alberta Auction Markets

In addition to this national group, there is also an Alberta based association – Alberta Auction Markets Association and they also have a Code of Ethics in which they state that they will give “honest service to all patrons of auction markets.”

“AIMS – OBJECTS – ETHICS

  1. To promote the general welfare of the members in regard to business, social, recreational and all other activities pertaining to the general improvement of the Auction Markets.
  2. Factual, accurate and honest market reporting with actual volume and prices.
  3. To provide open and fair competition.
  4. To give equal treatment to all contributors and buyers.
  5. To work in co-operation with all governing bodies, at all levels.
  6. Honest service shall be given to all patrons of auction markets.”

Also available are a number of government resources that outline the responsibilities of public auction businesses:

Province of Alberta Animal Health Act Livestock Market Regulation 

For those who would like to complain about the conditions of paddocks, feed, and water at an auction,  here are the relevant regulations:

“7(1) The operator shall keep an accurate record of each transaction relating to livestock that takes place at a livestock market,including(a) the livestock owner’s name, address, telephone number and premises identification number, (b) for horses, cattle and sheep, the number, colour, kind and brand or identifier as recorded in the livestock manifest required under the Livestock Identification and Commerce General Regulation (AR 208/2008),

(c) for livestock other than the livestock referred to in clause (b), the number, species, sex and livestock identifier, if available, and if the livestock identifier is unavailable, a description of each head of livestock, and (d) the name, address and telephone number of each purchaser of livestock.

Sanitation and other requirements

14 The operator of a livestock market shall, with respect to that livestock market, (a) provide an area where vehicles used to transport livestock to the livestock market may be cleaned by removing manure and bedding, (b) keep the livestock market free of all litter, refuse and weeds to the satisfaction of an inspector, (c) provide an area for the storage of all manure and soiled bedding in such a manner that livestock cannot have contact with it, (d) dispose of all manure and soiled bedding in such a manner that livestock cannot have contact with it for a minimum of one year, (e) provide suitable bedding that is clean, dry and adequate to meet the needs of the species and age of the livestock using it, (f) comply with the requirements of the Disposal of Dead Animals Regulation respecting the disposal of dead animals, and (g) control the fly population to the satisfaction of an inspector.

Cleaning and disinfecting

15(1) An operator must thoroughly clean the areas of the livestock market that are used by livestock, which includes scraping out or removing bedding and manure after each sale or assembly of livestock.

(2) An operator must clean the livestock market if ordered to do so by an inspector.

(3) An operator must thoroughly disinfect the livestock market if ordered to do so by an inspector

Misleading statements

20 No operator shall make or require or permit an employee or a person who is under contract to the operator to make any statement or representation or publish information in any form that misrepresents or misleads any person or is likely to misrepresent or mislead any person with respect to the health or condition of livestock at a livestock market.”

horses in pens at Claremont

Additional resources that may respond to complaints about conduct or animal neglect at auctions:

Alberta Fair Trading Act

Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act (British Columbia)

The Better Business Bureau of Central and Northern Alberta or Southern Alberta and East Kootenays.

The Better Business Bureau of the Lower Mainland, Thompson – Okanagan, Northern, Central and Southern Interior BC, and the Yukon 

Alberta Office of the Chief Veterinarian

Animal Health Office of British Columbia

Alberta SPCA

British Columbia SPCA

11891979_486949478138355_2324220209730095838_nIf you are considering reporting you must let conscience be your guide. It’s possible that auctions can be prevailed upon to correct some issues on their own when approached.  If you’re planning to report, consider the number of problems, the severity/urgency, and the duration of the problem.  What is the attitude of the staff if you do approach them?  Are they indifferent (or worse)?

It may be impossible to obtain photographs if the sale barn has banned them and are watching (while they can ask you to leave, they cannot confiscate your camera or phone or detain you against your will).  If reporting an incident, contact your local humane authority or provincial/national regulatory authority.  Lastly, familiarize yourself with the the Criminal Code, National Codes of Practice for equines, and the Health of Animals Act.  Thank you horse warriors……

“The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

~ Albert Einstein

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Over-Breeding, Foal-Milling AQHA Posts Membership Results for 2015

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Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

While new registrations and memberships of all pedigree horse breeds have been in decline overall since the 2008 recession,  registrations for the AQHA are possibly the hardest hit, due in part to the dominance of the quarter horse breed. The AQHA’s 2015 membership results have been posted, and following the trend of previous years,  they’re down overall once again.   Canada’s overall membership numbers continue in a decade of decline, so too do Alberta’s numbers, which are typically in the top 10 of almost any AQHA stat.

 

Membership Change Overall From 2014 – 2015 (2,997) This decline represents a loss of over $100,000 in revenue

Membership Change for Canada From 2014 – 2015 (655)

Membership Change for Alberta From 2014 – 2015 (171)

 

It’s no secret that the largest non-profit breed association in the world takes the most destructive and inhumane approach to horse slaughter of any of the breed groups. On the one hand, they have a Mission Statement to “ensure the American Quarter Horse is treated humanely, with dignity, respect and compassion at all times.” However, the AQHA needs a system to make room for the continuing mass production, hence their business model is to breed as many horses as possible (thus maintaining new memberships and registrations thus ensuring that they are a self-perpetuating entity) while discarding older  or surplus horses and horses with undesirable conformation to slaughter plants.

AQHA  Executive Vice President  Craig Huffhines – (in reference to the S.A.F.E. Act):

“If we do not like unwanted horses being sent to processing facilities across our northern and southern borders, then perhaps Congress should allow our own USDA-regulated processing plants to reopen. The U.S. plants, with state-of-the-art monitoring technology, will assure humane handling and euthanasia as approved by AAEP and AVMA and a USDA-inspected safe and wholesome end product for export.”

Can I say how disgusted I am that Huffhines refers to quarter horses as an “end-product?”  I dislike references to the term “foal crop” on the 2015 Executive Summary (or wherever else I see it).  41655994_mlThe term “crop” has pleasant connotations of the nostalgic gathering of a produce that is planted and cultivated by collecting rainwater for irrigation.  Animals are not “crops” that can be ripened like turnips, although sending horses to slaughter does bring to mind the image of a combine harvester and a crop of living animals that are simply mowed down.  Despite what the AQHA claims, the goal of “treating horses humanely and with dignity” is one that’s incompatible with over-breeding and slaughter.

In addition to encouraging horse owners to dispose of their animals in the slaughter pipeline and strategizing against humane groups,  the AQHA’s multiple-embryo-transfer rule also facilitates overpopulation by allowing mares to have more than one foal per year. Rules about using frozen semen or eggs from long-sterile or dead animals allowed horses to breed from beyond the grave.  Consider that First Prize Dash,  a 1988 quarter horse mare – produced  44 offspring!  Her sire, Dash for Cash, sired 1,233 foals!  Possibly these two horses are not the most obvious examples of this policy either. There were so many lines in the All Breed Pedigree record for Dash for Cash that I had to copy and past them into a spreadsheet in order to count them…

top hat tip DebbyInstead of trying to fight against animal welfare groups, the AQHA should be setting aside funds to care for unwanted horses that resulted from rampant over-breeding that the horse-riding public cannot absorb.

Fewer horses produced by responsible breeding practices would result in higher prices at the sale barn and private treaty sales. It’s not all about the membership numbers.

 

Alberta Wildies: Aerial Surveys Used To Substantiate Culls Are Prone To Extreme Inaccuracy

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Spirit of the Basin by Melody Perez

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Artwork by:  Melody Perez

Whether it’s conducted for horses, bison, wolf, or deer, aerial surveys usually precede a savage end for our free-roaming,wild, and migratory animals. It usually becomes apparent that a cull is being considered whenever an aerial survey is conducted.  But the process of conducting aerial counts to justify a cull is profoundly flawed.  The scientific evidence to support arguments against the horses just isn’t there.  Counts require low flying and intensive and systematic coverage of the landscape that are more likely to motivate, and less likely to detect, horse escape behaviour.  The anti-predator behaviour of the horse (and other prey animals such as deer) is characterized by grouping together and running to escape, which compounds observers’ ability to make accurate counts, as does aircraft altitude, weather conditions, season, vegetation, and animal mobility. At least one study of wild horse behaviour in New Zealand’s Kaimanawa Mountains has shown that aerial sampling, which is then extrapolated to the entire population, can be highly inaccurate and imprecise: 

“Comparisons between the records of the counters and two observers show that, of the 136 marked horses located immediately prior to the helicopter count, 34 (25%) were counted more than once, a further 23 (17%) may have been counted more than once, and 13 horses (9.6%) were not counted. The helicopter count yielded 228 horses and was 16.9% larger than the estimate of 195.

Untamed Longing by Melody PerezIn addition, counts that are made only once a year for 2-3 days are not generally considered to be a robust form of wildlife management when compared to counts done 3 times a year, such as in the spring after what is often a harsh winter, after the foals are born, and before a capture is being considered.   Reliable methods to estimate wild horse populations should be important to Alberta Environment & Parks (formerly  Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development – ESRD)  because otherwise they will continue to make programmatic decisions that aren’t supported by science.  A single aerial census is not terribly useful since the horses are pretty scarce and elusive when spread out over 6 million acres, which results in a weak inference about horses that are neither abundant nor widespread in the Equine Zones. Not only is the aerial count slipshod because it is only one sample, E&P doesn’t know how many horses are too many.    E&P allow the “Feral Horse Advisory Committee,” with representation from several stakeholder groups, such as oil and gas, forestry, cattle ranchers, capture permit holders and hunters, (groups with a vested interest in removing wild horses) input into culls.

By most accounts there are somewhere between 850-980 wild horses currently grazing a vast area close to six million acres in 6 Cimmaron stallion of the Sand Wash Basin in Colorado by Melody Perezequine zones in Alberta Canada.  The cattle being grazed consist in numbers about 10 times the number of equids in the 6 zones.

It is falsely claimed by E&D that wild horses have no predators.  These wild horses, like all other ungulates, do have natural predators.  If not, why then would the E&P (ESRD) advertise on their website hunting and trapping licence for cougars, wolves and bears?  It’s also falsely claimed by the Feral Horse Advisory Committee that horses compete with wildlife and cattle for forage.  If so,  how many skinny cattle come off the range each year?  The government’s own study by R.E. Salter, who has a master’s degree in zoology – did not document forage or behavioural competition with either wildlife or domestic cattle.  Studies in British Columbia showed that overgrazing and erosion were caused by too many cattle and not horses.

The New Zealand Study On Aerial Surveillance:

Burro Baby Blues by Melody PerezBy the grace of (insert the deity of your choice), a cull was not held this year. The decision to cull any of these horses should not lie in the interpretation that they are feral rather than wild; feral is a human construct that serves only to stigmatize the horses.

You only have to look at these horses to see that they are almost evolving into a distinct breed, rather like the Canadian horse.  They deserve heritage status and advocates should demand that “managing” these unique and iconic herds be conducted using a biological basis which should never include inputs from groups that seek to eliminate them.

There should be a ban on selling captured horses to slaughterhouses (in part because there is not six months worth of drug history on any of them) therefore those doing so should be heavily fined.

 

 

 

 

Contact:

Minister Shannon Phillips
323 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6
Phone: (780) 427-2391
Email: AEP.Minister@gov.ab.ca

Barn Fires – There’s No Excuse For Failing To Implement Common Sense Initiatives

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Horse-Barns-Fire-4Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In the last few months several devastating fires have made the news across Canada.   For anyone who owns horses or manages farms, it’s terrifying to hear of a barn fire.  Recently, we’ve all seen the horrifying aftermath of barn fires that killed 40 standardbred horses,  13 arabian horses, hundreds of chickens, milking goats, cows and in one fire alone – over 2,000 pigs in the news.  Sadly, such tragedies are neither unexpected nor sufficiently shocking to alter the low standards of care permitted for these sentient, intelligent creatures. The horrific deaths of all these animals has callously been referenced in terms of “tonnage” in news articles.

There is a well-developed body of knowledge about preventing fires.  The most obvious solution is to install sprinkler systems, which typically make all buildings safer.  So why is there so much resistance by farms and agricultural businesses?  The principal reason is that it is very difficult to install sprinkler systems in non-heated buildings or farms that rely on a well water system.  In unheated buildings, pipes freeze in winter, and water pressure may not be sufficient to sustain water flow to sprinklers.  The majority of barns will likely never have fire sprinklers, so it falls upon us as animal owners,  farm owners,  or boarders on farms to ensure we can mitigate risk as much as possible.

The Office of the Fire Marshal manages a database of all fire occurrences in Ontario.  Analysis of occurrences has shown that the sources of many fires remain undetermined due to complete destruction of the buildings, but there are three leading causes of identifiable farm fires:

Source – OMAFRA

Mechanical/electrical failure

  • short circuit or ground fault in electrical equipment
  • failure of the built-in automatic controls in mechanical equipment or system

Misuse of ignition source or igniting equipment

  • careless smoking, or smoking where flammable vapours are present
  • ignition source left unattended
  • improper use of extension cords (e.g. overloaded circuit, multiple strings in sequence)
  • A commonly reported cause of fires in farm buildings is the misuse of equipment (i.e. arc welders, cutting torches or grinders) in the presence of combustible materials or gases without the proper safeguards.
  • Fires reported in this group reflect human error and are preventable with best practice operating procedures

Design, construction or maintenance deficiency

  • improperly constructed building feature or system
  • improperly installed object such as a heating appliance that is too close to combustible building features
  • improper maintenance such as failure to remove accumulation of combustible dust or debris, which is then ignited by heating appliances, process equipment or electrical equipment
  • faulty product design causes a fire even when the product is installed and used correctly

Design, Construction or Maintenance DeficiencyFire Hose

  • Improperly designed, installed or maintained building systems are another common cause of farm building fires. This includes heating equipment, lighting systems, process equipment and electrical distribution. For example, heat shields for a suspended radiant tube heater may become displaced with the use of a high pressure washer.
  • Without the shields properly in place, the underside of the ceiling becomes too hot and increases the potential for ignition and fire. Although the design and installation of the equipment is correct, a maintenance deficiency would be identified as the cause of the fire.

 

Please Sign – Petitions for Farm Safety Reform

CETFA Petition

Petition to Yasir Naqvi and Jeff Leal

Equine Guelph  has also put together an excellent resource,  one of the best I’ve seen,  to help farm owners avoid fires through common sense initiatives,  and a few that aren’t so common.  Planning ahead will also improve outcomes on your farm in the event you have to call first responders.